In his recent post, Bill Shore urges nonprofit leaders to not overlook the importance of ensuring that everyone in the organization understands the organization’s strategy in the same way. Getting your staff on the same page is one critical piece of the larger “alignment puzzle.” But there are a whole host of other dimensions to consider.
Our research and work with clients have unearthed a number of questions organizations can ask themselves to test their alignment both inside the organization and with key external stakeholders. Here are three of the most important:
- Does your spending match your priorities? Are you putting your money where your mouth is? If you say building partnerships to combat homelessness is your number one priority, then a detailed analysis of the organization’s spending should clearly show that the majority of resources have been allocated to staff, systems, etc. to build critical partnerships. The results of this analysis can be powerful and eye-opening.
- Does your funding support your core strategy? Do you and your funders have a common understanding of your organization’s core purpose? We all have heard about mission creep. It generally happens when an organization lets a funding source dictate where it should focus and how it should deliver. If you say your strategy is to convene and influence critical stakeholders to combat homelessness, then an analysis of what you are required to deliver to maintain that funding should all tie into convening and influencing critical stakeholders. If not, then it’s time to 1) work with your funding source to ensure that their giving supports the best execution of your strategy and/or 2) take a hard look at whether this funding is worth it.
- Do your priorities match the needs of your constituents? The constituents you aim to serve are the boss. What are their needs? How are their needs evolving? In what ways do you need to adjust your programs to better respond to their needs? Having the discipline to proactively and consistently seek answers to questions like these helps leaders ensure that organizational priorities are aligned with community needs. This often happens when an organization’s leadership spends the majority of its time “in the market,” as we say at Community Wealth Partners, not behind the desk.
The answers to these questions can often be hard to swallow. And the solutions built to enhance alignment can be painful to implement. So, why engage in the hard work of aligning your organization? Because if you don’t, there are likely many missed opportunities to have a greater impact on the social problem you hope to solve.